Streamlined approval process for properties in San Francisco (SB-9)

Posted on
January 26, 2022

What is Housing Development Streamlined Approval using Senate Bill 9?

Senate Bill 9 (SB-9) requires local entities to streamline the approval of certain housing projects by providing a ministerial approval process, removing the requirement for CEQA analysis, and removing the requirement for Conditional Use Authorization or other similar discretionary entitlements granted by the Planning Commission or Historic Preservation Commission. This is a voluntary program that a project sponsor may elect to pursue, provided that certain eligibility criteria are met.

A ministerial decision involves only the use of fixed standards or objective measurements, and the city cannot use personal, subjective judgment in deciding whether or how the project should be carried out.  An SB-9 project is a project that proposes no more than two new units, or that proposes to add one new unit to one existing unit.  

There are three options under SB-9:

  • Lot Split (40% and 60% split; min. 1,200 sqft either one)
  • Duplex  (two units)
  • Lot Split and Duplex (split the lot and have two units on each one)  

Is my project eligible for streamlined approval using SB-9?

The lot must be located in an RH-1, RH-1(D), and RH-1(S) zoning districts. If there is an existing home on the this lot, it must have been owner-occupied or vacant for the past three (3) years.  

The remaining eligibility criteria The Planning Department will review to confirm eligibility for the program within 30 days of submittal to the Planning Department.  

Single-family zoned lots in San Francisco eligible for SB-9
Single-family zoned lots in San Francisco

Interdepartmental Project Review Meeting

For projects involving the lot split or lot split and duplex, an Interdepartmental Project Review meeting can be a great way to obtain initial feedback on your project. Representatives from the Fire Department, Department of Building Inspection, and Planning Department will all be on hand to answer any questions you may have. We recommend bringing a preliminary drawing that illustrates the proposed lot split, any easements if necessary, and estimated location of the structures.  

For questions related to the Interdepartmental Project Review Meeting contact directly the Project Review Meeting Coordinator.

Eligibility Criteria for all SB-9 Projects

To be eligible for SB-9 ministerial approval, a housing development project must meet the following requirements:
• Zoning. The parcel must be located in an RH-1, RH-1(D), or RH-1(S) zoning district. Check here to determine your parcel’s zoning.
• Pre-application Occupancy. The parcel must be owner-occupied or vacant for three (3) years prior to the application. A parcel is ineligible if it includes a housing unit occupied by tenants in the three (3) years prior to an application. Applicants will be required to provide proof of occupancy for three years prior to application, as described in the SB-9 project application forms.
• Rental Pricing Controls. Parcels are ineligible if they include existing units subject to local rent control regulations. The following are typically not subject to rental pricing controls: single family homes, condominiums, ADUs permitted under the State program, and units built after 1979. Applicants will be required to provide unit count and building construction date of any existing buildings to determine eligibility.

Ellis Act evictions.

Parcels are ineligible if they include a unit where the Ellis Act has been used in the fifteen (15) years prior to an SB-9 project application. To determine if a unit on the parcel has been subject to an Ellis Act eviction, consult with the San Francisco Rent Board.

Historic Resources.

Parcels are ineligible for SB-9 if located within a historic or landmark district under State law or if designated or listed as a landmark or historic property or district under local law (Planning Code Article 10 or 11). Request here to determine if the parcel is designated or listed as a landmark or historic property or located in a district under local law.

Prohibition of Short-Term Rentals.

SB-9 requires that the rental of any unit created under an SB-9project be for a term longer than 30 days.
Lot Split in San Francisco

Criteria for SB-9 Lot Split Projects

Original Parcel Size.

Only parcels 2,400 square feet and larger are eligible for a ministerial lot split.

Resulting Parcel Size.

An SB-9 lot split cannot result in a parcel more than 60% or less than 40% of size of the original lot, and both newly created parcels must be at least 1,200 square feet.

Prior Lot Splits.

Any parcel established through the prior exercise of an urban lot split under SB-9 is not eligible. You may not use SB-9 to subdivide a parcel twice.

Adjacent Lot Splits.

Parcels where either the owner of the parcel, or any person acting in concert with the owner, has previously subdivided an adjacent parcel using an urban lot split under SB-9 are also not eligible.

Post-Project Owner Occupancy.

SB-9 lot split projects require the applicant sign an affidavit stating that the applicant intends to occupy one of the housing units as their principal residence for a minimum of three years from the date of the approved lot split. This requirement does not apply if the applicant is a community land trust or a qualified nonprofit corporation.• Lot Split Easements. Projects that include a lot split may require easements for utility connections and physical access, depending on the lot split configuration. Easements must meet all applicable fire and building safety code requirements.

We were wondering how many lots in San Francisco may meet this criteria. Basically, there are 75,000 parcels zoned for single family in San Francisco but only 32,700 lots would be eligible for SB-9. This is a rundown on how many lots in San Francisco are eligible for SB-9 after applying most of the above mentioned criteria:

Number of lots would be eligible for SB-9 in San Francisco
Number of lots would be eligible for SB-9 in San Francisco

How do I apply?

Applicants may apply for a lot split only, duplex only, or lot split and duplex (combo).  

  • Apply for a Parcel Map for a Lot Split with San Francisco Public Works.  
  • Apply for the construction of a duplex with the Planning Department
  • Project Application (PRJ) | San Francisco Planning
  • SB-9 Supplemental Application | San Francisco Planning
  • Plans that meet Plan Submittal Guidelines | San Francisco Planning
  • Preliminary Housing Development (SB-330) | San Francisco Planning  (optional)
  • Apply for a building permit for the construction of the dwelling units to the Department of Building Inspection
SB-9 is very exciting for home owners and home buyers but, as you can see, not all the single family lots are eligible. So, first you need to check if the property is eligible for SB-9.

You may also want to learn about the Development Standards for SB-9 projects in San Francisco.

Reference Documents

Lot splits and duplexes often require a new electrical and or/water service and meter for the new units. Based on lot size restrictions, a utilities easement may be needed to provide this service.

Contact PG&E and the SFPUC early in the process to discuss options.  
PG&E
Application for Service
       Building and renovation line 877-743-7782
       San Francisco line 415-695-3500
SFPUC
Water Service Installations

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